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Taking the skylines by storm

"Architecture is not based on concrete and steel and the elements of the soil. It's based on wonder”- this is how architecture is defined by architects. It requires the creative manipulation and coordination of material, technology, light and shadow.

However to the general people architecture is considered as mere buildings and physical structures. Other than buildings, architecture has to do with the planning and designing of space and ambience. According to Rafiq Azam, architecture is a philosophical journey along with creative manipulation and coordination of material, technology, light and shadow. And because of his aesthetic considerations and artistic eye he has established a personal hallmark of his work and became the recipient of the most prestigious Leading European Architects Forum (LEAF) Award 2012 for his outstanding project, S.A Residence in the 'Residential building of the year (multiple occupancy)' category. On November 25, he bagged the South Asian Architect of the Year Award for the same project.

Azam is a born creative with a knack for water-colour painting from childhood and the wheel of destiny ended up making him a world-class architect. His works are a reflection of the philosophies of Lalon and Jagadis Chandra Bose about the embodiment and dynamics of life. And these influences were merged with modern architectures and are portrayed in his approach to building design.

He gave lectures at various prestigious institutions around the globe; he bagged many awards both locally and internationally such as IAB Design Award in 1996, The 2007 Kenneth F. Brown, Asia Pacific Culture & Architecture Design Award, Berger Award for Excellence in Architecture in 2007, AR Awards for Emerging Architecture in 2007, Cityscape Architecture Award 2009, to name a few.

Above all, the Emirates Glass Leading European Architects Forum (LEAF) Award 2012 is a feather in the cap. He has defined a radically new approach to architecture by creating buildings like S.A Residence in Dhaka which is a three-storey residence based around the shape of the pure square and constructed of a single material, cast concrete. Considering the socio-economic conditions of Dhaka, architectural vocabulary is kept simple, with traditional spaces like the courtyard, pond, ghat (steps to water) and ample green to merge together urban and rural typologies in this urban context. Even in a layperson's eyes it is a soothing contrast of comfortable living space with a touch of rural flavour amid the chaotic city life. Azam's underlying inspiration behind this building has been derived from the inter-relationship between form and void which is at the heart of Lalon's philosophy.

The LEAF Awards that he received is operated by the Leading European Architects Forum (LEAF), founded in 2001. LEAF brings together leading international architects and designers operating in Europe and beyond to share knowledge, to network and to develop new partnerships. The LEAF Awards, now in its ninth year, honours the architects designing the buildings and solutions that are setting the benchmark for the international architectural community. This year the Award celebrated the best of global architecture.

Azam's other remarkable work also gives emphasis on space, form, composition and his philosophies which is a blend of traditional flavour with a contemporary touch. Rafiq Azam is a known face in the international circuit and his works have been exhibited in major museums and galleries around the world. And his contribution in the architecture field has taken Bangladesh to a different height where the name 'Bangladesh' is pronounced parallel to architecture.

By Farah Naz Sayed


Here's to happiness

The scene was exactly that from a village courtyard on any given chilly winter evening; the mother sitting cosily with her brood around the mud stove and other members of the family hovering around the fire to keep warm while she was making 'pithas'. The enthusiastic youngest was shaving the coconuts, the eldest was stirring the cardamom-flavoured milk to a boil and others were designing the 'pulis' or steaming the 'bhapas'. The 'pulis', the 'chitois' and the 'bhapas' were all being ravished by the second they were done. Only difference in this loving family scene was that it was done in my garage. My guard is my housekeeper's son-in-law and most of her extended family migrated to Dhaka and work as guards, construction site workers or as house helps in and around my lane in Uttara.

They are a close knit family and for any reason or no reason at all they plan family gatherings at random. And frankly I enjoy their hullabaloo -- for one thing the happiness is contagious and it gives me a sense of pleasure and unity.

This particular get-together got me thinking though, and I sadly realised that this warm, fuzzy kind of love, the one that you can only sense in a big family cuddle, is the thing missing from our lives now. In retrospect I have come to this awful realisation at the year's end and it is wrenching my heart out.

We have gone up the hill to achieve so many daunting tasks or went down to the bottom of an ocean to make the impossible happen but we did not sit still for two minutes to hold the hand of an ailing aunt or find time to console a brother in distress or share a Friday lunch with family.

When my child was young the sacred family rule that was enforced on us by her was that she must be in the middle with us on her side in everything we do; while watching a movie or sitting inside the car and during the family hugs. At times, just to watch her reaction, if we hugged without her she would force herself in.

Oh those simple pleasures of family bondage, what I would do to relive just one second of that time gone by! Now the family rule is not to kiss her or hug her at all; you cannot do that to a teenager.

While searching for our dreams we have done everything possible to attain it but forgot to nurture the root of all our strength, the family. I will not make it a New Year's resolution because I never could keep any; but I will really give my best shot to find more time for simple pleasures of life.

It's the sweet nothings of family life that replenish the soul and a parched one like mine needs its feed every once in a while. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all Star Lifestyle readers!

-- Raffat Binte Rashid


Wishing for a white Christmas!

I always enjoy sitting in a hotel lobby, sipping from a cup of piping hot tea or coffee, observing the people going about their respective tasks. There is a cosmopolitan feel to the whole affair. You can see Europeans having sandwiches at a distant table; Nigerians sipping latte and Arabs, as it seemed, captivated in a heated debate, which, of course is unfathomable by most of us.

Waiting for a friend, on one occasion, I was in the hotel lobby, sipping cappuccino, enjoying the warmth of the atmosphere on a chilly December evening while a foreign troupe was performing Christmas carols before us.

Christmas in Dhaka has been redefined, it seems. The expatriate community in Dhaka has increased manifold in the last decade and a tremendous amount of marketing goes behind catering to the needs of this segment of the population. Secondly, with the hitherto laidback Christian community now emerging in economic and social stature, Christmas has etched a prominent line in our urban structure.

Our city existence has changed on many frontiers and occasions as joyous as Christmas give us hope for a better tomorrow like no other. As the girls of the groups sang the Christmas carols I had once heard in school many years ago, I was immersed in the feeling of warmth that Christmas creates within us all.

The singing trio sang 'White Christmas' and deep down inside I too began to wish for a white Christmas. One that is pure, one that will cleanse the impurities that exist within us.

2012 will forever be marked as a tumultuous year in the history of Bangladesh. The political upheavals, the unravelling of high stake corruption that goes on behind the people's eyes, the senseless 'mass murders' that remain unsolved and much more; yet on the other side of the scale we have progressed -- on many frontiers Bangladesh has made advances never thought possible before.

The year that lies ahead of us may prove difficult in more ways than one. And it will undoubtedly be pivotal for our existence. 2013 will carve our identity in many ways. And along the way we will need hope.

As the Christmas carol rung out, I too felt a desire for a White Christmas. Let the pure purify my mortal existence. “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!”

By Mannan Mashhur Zarif


Oitij-jo: Bangladesh past, present, future

Bangladesh Brand Forum (UK) along with Paraa and Culturepot Global is organising a three-day event in the UK. The event Oitij-jo: Bangladesh past, present, future is scheduled to take place at Bargehouse, London between 22 and 24 February 2013, and will include works by Bangladeshis -- residents and expatriates. It will feature fashion and textile exhibitions, film screenings, photography and educational workshops, as well as talks, panel discussions and cultural performances.

The organisers of the event arranged an introductory session in Dhaka in the second week of December for the various stakeholders and also to present the exhibition to the local press. It was attended by notable fashion designers Bibi Russell, Emdad Haque and Chandra Shekhar Shaha.

Enamul Haque, a participant from the UK and a fashion photographer by profession, talked about the event as a representative of the organisers. Runi Khan, the other spokesperson, highlighted on the aims of the event. She said, “Oitij-jo was aimed at promoting Bangladeshi talent in the creative industry and to improve the image of the country as a whole. We are basically aiming to brand the Bangladeshi culture,” Runi Khan added.

The exhibition will present Mirpuri Benaroshi designed by Rukia Begum, Nasreen Raja and Karishma Shahini; a display of Muslin, Jamdani and other products; the event will also include the Pop-up Bangladesh Shop, a floor dedicated to clothes, crafts, accessories and jewellery.

There will be cross-cultural programmes, photography exhibitions by Shahidul Alam and Enamul Haque, films and video screenings, fashion show, etc. And last but not the least the programme will feature a book fair.

For more information, contact: bbflondon@btinternet.com.

By Karishma Ameen


Breaking the Cardio Plateau

By Karim Waheed

You run, bike, jog -- put in hours of cardio, and now you are starting to feel like you are in a cardio rut. Maybe you've reached a fitness plateau and just can't seem to take your cardio to the next level. Your workout shouldn't be boring.

Select cardio activities that you enjoy. The weather's nice right now, perfect for a brisk walk outdoors. To make things more interesting and challenging, find an uneven track that requires focus. Play your favourite music while walking or jogging to keep you motivated.

This is also badminton season. Badminton (provided you're playing aggressively) can be a great cardio workout. So can football or basketball or just tossing and chasing a ball with the kids or your dog. Any physical activity is “cardio”, if you sweat and your heart rate is elevated.

Try to recruit one or more friends to join you in your cardio workout. You can keep each other motivated and engage in a little friendly competition. You and your cardio pals can push each other to go further, faster, longer and harder during workout.

Take a martial art class with your best friend. You'll both get a great cardio workout while learning some self defence moves. When you workout with friends, the time seems to go by much faster because you enjoy spending time with them.

It's easy to become bored and get into a fitness rut if you do the same exercise routine day after day. Mix it up and bring some excitement to your workout with interval and circuit training. Interval training, also called HIIT (high intensity interval training), consists of short bursts of vigorous cardio followed by a rest period of lighter cardio exercise. You can get all of the benefits of a full 30 minutes of cardio in less time when you do interval training. You'll burn more calories in less time, too. If you like to run, sprint as fast as you can for 2 to 3 minutes and then slow down for 1 minute. Sprint again and then slow down again.

Don't do the same exercise routine every day. Try different types of exercise to work different muscle groups. Circuit training a couple of days each week will work your whole body and make your routine more interesting.

Some ideas: do some intense jumping jacks for 5 minutes and then some step aerobics for 5 minutes. Follow step aerobics by jumping rope and then mix it up with some intense bodyweight exercises, like push-ups, squats and lunges. Rest for about 1 minute between each type of exercise to catch your breath, and then move right to the next one.

Exercise in the morning before breakfast or in the evening before dinner, at least 2 hours after your last meal. When you exercise on an empty stomach, your body uses stored carbohydrates and fat for energy -- thereby burning body fat. Keep your workout between 20 and 45 minutes to avoid under-training and over-training. Add a strength-training element to your cardio workout to increase muscle mass as you burn fat. Push-ups strengthen the upper body, crunches work abs, and squats strengthen hips and lower body.

Photo: LS Archive


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